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FAQ for Age of Steam
Info taken from FAQs in file area and various forum threads, consolidated into a Wiki page so that people can more easily find all the info in one place and update it.
Note that this FAQ covers the core rules of Age of Steam itself. This FAQ is not the place for information about the zillions of specific expansions (e.g. how buying back shares works on the Switzerland map, etc). An expansion can have its own FAQ if necessary, with info specific to the expansion.
Table of Contents
Probably clearclaw was joking when he wrote that "Re: Where is the FAQ ? There is no FAQ. It is quite a simple game.]", since he himself posted several rules questions in the forum. :)
This BGG wiki FAQ includes info from those 2 FAQs as well as the AoS Rules Forum at BGG.
Differences between 1st and 2nd edition
A forum discussion thread presents the rule changes in the 2nd edition:
The files area has a file describing changes introduced in the 2nd edition rulebook:
The developer John Bohrer notes that "the only real change is the ability to directly Place Complex track tiles within the constraints of the existing "Building Track" rules".
What's the difference between Age of Steam and Steam?
Steam was published in 2009 and has various changes including different components and rules changes, e.g. a basic/simplified version of the rules, with the standard Age of Steam type rules presented as advanced rules. Ted Alspach (toulouse) wrote a highly thumbed extensive review of Steam that analyzes and evaluates the various changes:
There was long-standing disagreement between John Bohrer and Martin Wallace about the nature of their original agreement, legal ownership of Age of Steam, and related issues.
On 2019-03-15, Martin Wallace announced that the parties involved reached an agreement:
From the desk of Martin Wallace:
An overview article about it:
Some BGG forum threads discussing it:
A mailing list post by John Bohrer (2019-03-09):
The gray cities are really black
Due to printing anomalies the colors of cubes and city tiles don't always look clearly similar. Black cubes correspond to gray cities. Purple cubes correspond to pink cities.
Physical limits on tiles etc
You are limited to using the track and town tiles supplied and 8 town disks. (Some sets have spare town disks, but 8 is the intended limit). Using up rare track tiles etc is part of the strategy.
Of course the goods cubes are limited (16 black and 20 of the other colors).
The track ownership markers are limited to 20 (4th edition FRED rules note that 25 are provided, but only 20 can be used.)
But isn't limited track tiles unrealistic?
It is a common debate whether physical tile limits are desirable or not in railroad games like Age of Steam and 18xx and many others. It is a trade off of realism vs additional sneaky tactics (and of course practical manufacturing considerations). Some players play with a variant house rule that all track tiles are unlimited.
There is no PDF of the rulebook available online
Cash held is public knowledge
Detroit should be a 3 city
Old versions of the map mistakenly printed Detroit as a 1 city.
II. Determine Player Order
You don't have to increase your own bid after the Pass action
If you make a bid, and then it comes back to you after everyone else passing, and one of those players used the Pass action so they're still in the auction, you don't have to increase your bid; you can rebid your same amount to stay in. See the rulebook example where Vince says "My $3 bid stands."
The 1st and 2nd place winners of the auction pay full price
The 3rd edition rules left out an important sentence. The 1st and 2nd place winners of the auction both pay full price. The first player to drop out pays nothing. All others pay 1/2 their bid, rounded up.
The Pass action doesn't have to be used as your first bid
If Player 3 (of 3) takes the turn order action, during bidding, they can bid and use the free pass later, e.g.:
What if only 2 players are left in the game?
The first player to drop out pays nothing. The first and second player in turn order pay their full bids. The rules do not clearly cover the case of what if the first player to drop out is also the second player in turn order (due to other players having been eliminated). Different people have different opinions about whether the first to drop out when only 2 players remain should pay nothing or should pay their full bid. It seems the best one can do is make sure one's group agrees beforehand how this unusual case should be handled if it comes up.
III. Select Actions
You can select Locomotive action without being able to use it
It is legal to select the Locomotive action when you are already at the maximum level (6), simply to prevent others from getting it.
Using a selected action is optional
John Bohrer notes: The word 'allows' is quite intentionally used, not the word 'requires'. Please note that, for every action described, the same term 'allows' is used. The player selecting an action is never required to perform the action, but by selecting the action the player denies it to all other players.
IV. Build Track
Your network need not be contiguous
Note that you can start building track out of any city, even if you already have some track elsewhere on the board which doesn't connect to your new track.
You may build duplicate links which connect the same pair of cities
You can build more than one link to connect the same pair of cities. Of course the only reason to build a second such link is to screw other players. (Some players don't like this and make a variant house rule that you can't build duplicate links between a pair of cities.)
Note that it is not legal to build a loop link from a city to itself.
Building Track: When can you extend an unowned link out of a town?
The rules say: "All future track built by a player must ultimately connect to a city through that player's track". To claim control of an unowned unfinished link that's coming out of a town (not city), you must have some chain of your links from a city to that town.
Building Track: placing a complex track tile in an empty space
It is legal to play a complex track tile directly (instead of upgrade an existing simple track). But to do so, both of the track segments on it must be legal extensions for you. At least one end of every track build (even complex track) must trace back to a city (or town), at the end of the turn in which it is built.
This is a change from 1st edition rules:
Building Track: it legal to make another player's track unfinishable
Since you are limited to the supplied mix of tiles, and since towns can have at most 4 tracks, etc, there are various ways that clever tactical tile play can screw another player and make their uncompleted track unable to be further extended. This is intentional and legal.
Restrictions: you can build to connect to your own track
Note that although you can't build to connect to another player's unfinished track, it is OK to connect to your own unfinished track. It can be a useful way to ensure a connection between two cities: build from both ends and meet in the middle.
Track Ownership: losing control of unfinished links
You lose ownership of an unfinished link in the turn following the turn that you added to it. E.g. in turn 3 you build some track that is unfinished. In turn 4, if you don't add another track tile to it, you lose ownership of it at the end of your track building. You or another player could then extend it and become its new owner.
Replacing Track: replacing one complex tile with another
Apparently replacing a complex tile with another costs $2. Note that you can only do this if both tracks are the ends of unfinished links.
Entering a Town: you choose the number and direction of additional tracks
When entering a previously unreached town, you can choose which town tile to play (including a 4-track complex tile with a town marker, or the unique town tile with only 1 track). You pay $1 + the total number of tracks (1-4), i.e. you pay $2-$5.
Placing New City tiles: you can claim an unowned link that connects to the new city
By urbanizing a town, it is possible to finish an unowned link and claim it. The reasoning is a bit odd:
John Bohrer notes: Urbanization is a track extension, look at your Age of Steam rulebook, all editions, page 3, the Building Track section, specifically the sentence "While City hexes do not show any track, they are considered to have track from each hexside to each other hexside."
telan notes: I don't like this interpretation because it suggests that the urbanizing player would then technically own all of the available out-going links from the new city through their next turn. But evidently this is not intended - anyone can still build out of a new city.
Placing new city tiles
So Urbanization both is and isn't extending track, depending on context.
Placing New City tiles can be done if another player's track will be connected to the city
Even though "urbanization is a track extension" (and thus you can claim unowned links touching the new city), you can nonetheless urbanize in a way that causes another player's unfinished track pointed at the town to become connected to the new city.
Placing New City tiles need not be done in alphabetical order
Placing New City tiles: the light and dark squares cause no restrictions on placements
Even though the standard map has all the white square cities on the west and all the black square cities on the east, there is no inherent requirement about where new cities go. You can place a white square new city (with a letter in its box) on any town on the board, not just in the west.
Redirecting counts as one of your track placements
Redirecting: Which tracks can be redirected?
Only the end track of an unfinished link you own can be redirected. (This costs $2 and does not count as extending your unfinished track for purposes of retaining ownership of it.)
You can't redirect others' tracks, nor can you redirect your own tracks in completed links, nor can you redirect any track in your own unfinished link except the current end track.
Redirecting: you can't redirect town tracks
You can upgrade a town tile to have more tracks (unless it already has the maximum, i.e. 4 tracks), but you can't move its existing tracks.
It is ok to swap a complex town tile for a different one
If you need a complex tile which is no longer available, but one of them has been used for a 4-track town, you can swap the town's tile with some other complex tile in the pool which preserves the same track orientation at the tile edges. Conceptually that doesn't change the town itself, and it doesn't count as a replacement or track build.
V. Move Goods
One of your delivery actions can be used to upgrade your locomotive
Note that you may use one (but not both) of your delivery actions to increase your link capacity instead of to deliver a cube.
You can't use the same link or city twice in a single delivery
Within a single delivery the same link or city may not be used more than once.
Two different deliveries can use the same link
Different deliveries are independent of each other, so a delivery and can use the same links and cities as a previous delivery.
You don't have to deliver by the shortest possible route
Note that there is no requirement that your delivery route be the shortest possible. Given a choice between several routes over your own track, you can and should usually use the longest one which your locomotive supports, so as to increase your income more!
A good must be delivered in a single move
There is no concept of goods moving to some intermediate city and staying there until the next turn. Within a single delivery action, you must move the cube to its delivery city - i.e. until it enters a city of the cube's color.
You move one good during each of your two deliveries in a turn
Note that you may move 0 or 1 cubes for each of your 2 delivery actions in a turn. There is no concept of moving 3 cubes 2 links each in a single action if your link capacity is 6, for instance.
A good can not be delivered to the city it started in
You cannot move a cube more links than your own link capacity
If you move over opponents' track, you don't get to add their link capacity to move a cube further.
First edition rules have an erroneous delivery example
The 1st edition rules give an example on page 6 (top of column 2) where Pete and dave move red cubes from and to blue cities (Evansville & Cincinnatti). This is simply an error. A cube must be delivered to the city with the cube's color.
You can move goods over other's track, including the first link
You can even ship a cube using only other players' tracks (so they earn all the income and you earn none). Occasionally that is even rational. (Delivering it at low profit "for" them instead of permitting them to make a long delivery.)
VII. Pay Expenses
A bankrupt player does nothing more in the game
E.g. if a bankrupt player had selected the Production action, they do not perform it after going bankrupt, because they have become eliminated from the game.
VIII. Income Reduction
Income reduction happens after you gain income and pay expenses
E.g. if after goods are delivered, your income is 15 and your expenses are 11, you would earn 4 cash (profit), and then your income would be reduced by 2 to 13.
Income reduction reduces your income, not your cash
Just as the name implies, you reduce your income by 2, 4, or whatever. You don't reduce your cash on hand.
Yes, getting an extra income sometimes hurts you
E.g. if your income is 10, then it doesn't fall. If your income increases by 1, then it will fall by 2 to 9. It is perfectly possible for another player to "help" you by using one of your links to raise your income to 11, causing it to then fall by 2 to 9. This is intentional and provides more tactical possibilities, even if it seems "unrealistic".
Many new players are surprised or bothered by this. Some play with house rules, e.g. that the income reduction is reduced by 1 on the first square (so you use 1 on 11, 3 on 21, etc) or by smoothing it out (lose 1 with income 6-10, lose 3 with income 16-20, etc). Some specific maps and scenarios alter income reduction.
IX. Goods Growth
Remaining cubes are not moved on the Goods Production chart
After removing the highest cube in a column, you do not slide the remaining cubes up to fill the gap. Note that this means a player who uses the Production action could put new cubes into those higher empty slots. Lower cubes are intentionally more likely to stay on the chart.
Advance Turn Marker
Bankruptcy is not the same as a negative final score
Going bankrupt during play (due to not being able to meet your expenses) eliminates you from the game. Going negative during the final calculation 3 * (income - shares issued) + number of track tiles in completed links does not eliminate you. It is possible to win with a negative final score, as long as everyone else is even more negative.
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